In the fast-paced world of trading, where markets can change in the blink of an eye, the significance of patience cannot be overstated. Patience is not merely the ability to wait; it’s a critical component of successful trading. It’s the difference between impulsivity and disciplined decision-making, between chasing every opportunity and waiting for the perfect setup.
Have you ever just looked at your trades at the end of the day and said “What was I even thinking?”. You have a set plan and you have specific trades you want to take but all in all, the end result is an unrecognizable mess.
You think to yourself, “Only if I followed my plan, only if I was disciplined enough, only if I was patient enough”. This is the difference between a profitable trader and a struggling trader.
Successful traders have a system they trade that is expected to yield a specific return on average, deviation from that system ruins your career as a trader. Throughout this post, we’re going to stress the importance of allowing your system to play out and how you can adhere to that as the operator of the system.
The Psychological Challenges of Impulsivity
Impulsivity is a natural human tendency, and it can wreak havoc in the world of trading. The psychological challenges it presents are immense. Traders often face the urge to act quickly, driven by emotions like greed and fear. These emotions can cloud judgment, lead to impulsive trades, and ultimately result in losses. Emotions that beget impulsive behaviors in trading stem from not having a concrete plan to follow or not being disciplined enough to follow said plan.
Setting the Stage for Disciplined Trading
To become a successful trader, one must set the stage for disciplined trading right from the start. This involves recognizing the importance of patience and understanding the psychological hurdles that impede it. Without this foundation, even the best trading strategies can crumble under the weight of impulsive decisions.
Patience matters in trading because it allows traders to make informed, rational decisions. It enables them to wait for the right opportunities rather than succumbing to the pressure of the moment. Patient traders have the mental fortitude to weather market fluctuations and stick to their strategies.
Delayed gratification is at the heart of patient trading. It means forgoing immediate rewards in favor of larger, more significant gains in the future. Patient traders understand that not every trade will be a winner, and they are willing to wait for those high-probability setups that offer the best potential returns.
Take this as an example:
Here are two traders, they both have the same system and the same trade levels.
The strategy suggests that they should trade specific levels, longs or shorts. The red line identifies an order flow pivot, meaning that they should be long, and below they should look for shorts.
Trader 1 seems at most areas as opportunities, anything between levels that might “look good” in fear of missing the move and not being on board for the expected run.
Let’s assume the larger upward-pointed arrows are all the areas the impulsive trader entered with a 3-point stop on the S&P500 futures. They seem good, he’s buying dips, but out of the 16 trades taken 5 of those were winners, and the remaining 11 were losers.
If we assumed a 3-point stop and a 5-point take profit. If we assumed no stop, the situation would’ve been much more dire. This trade is chasing the price movement rather than reading it, on every run higher, the trader is entering a late long only to be at the end of the trend.
This trader would go as far as to develop the bias even under the order flow pivot, still looking to buy dips because of what had happened prior. Meaning so many losses by not trading the plan starts to muddy the clarity of the plan and impulsive behaviour takes control.
Trader 2 has the same levels as Trader 1 and has taken trades carefully crafted to those levels that do adhere to their trade plan.
The patience and discipline are clearly seen when comparing the two images, the second trader has fewer trades and they all look very similar to one another. While Trader 1 has more sporadic trades that are everywhere and in larger quantities.
Naturally, Trader 2 has a higher profitability percentage as well as profit in general. This is the difference between trading decisions based on patience. The difference between good trading and poor trading.
The Impulse to Act Quickly & Emotional Control
The impulse to act quickly in trading is a natural response to market movements. When prices are rapidly rising or falling, it’s tempting to jump in or out of positions without careful consideration.
This impulse is often driven by the fear of missing out (FOMO) or the desire to cut losses quickly. Day traders take multiple trades a day, it’s very easy to lose control and take 10s or even 100s of trades a day. When there might only be 3-5 REALLY good trade setups on a daily basis.
Emotional trading is the Achilles’ heel of many traders. Emotions like fear and greed can cloud judgment and lead to impulsive decisions. Emotional traders often chase the market, enter trades without proper analysis, and let their feelings dictate their actions. However, there is a way to get through impulsive trading and emotional actions in the market.
Generally, psychological issues in financial markets account for the majority of losing positions in trading accounts. These are also the hardest aspects to fix. Anyone can learn a strategy or find a system that yields good results, the issue is being able to follow it and not lose control and in turn, lose money that doesn’t have to be risked.
Overcoming impulsivity in trading requires a multi-faceted approach. Traders must develop the skills and mindset necessary to maintain emotional control and avoid hasty decisions. This involves a combination of techniques, mental resilience, and real-time strategies.
If you have a trade plan that outlines only 3 to 4 key trade levels throughout the day, then why even entertain anything else? It’s because people think trading should be this ultra exciting, pit floor level yelling, jumping up in the air career. Filled with explosiveness, split decisions, and constant action.
The reality is, the more boring you can make it, the more mundane you can make it, and the more you trade a system in and out, the better you will do.
This is the reason I have outlined my key levels using these white lines on my chart.
It might seem like there are many, however, the distance on average is about 8-10 points on the S&P500 futures. These white lines help me stay on the ball and look to trade only these regions.
Techniques for Maintaining Emotional Control
Maintaining emotional control is a crucial aspect of patient trading. Techniques such as mindfulness and meditation can help traders stay centered and focused, even in the midst of market turmoil. These practices promote self-awareness and emotional discipline. These should be taken with a grain of salt because no amount of meditation is going to stop you from taking 15 trades a day in my opinion.
Rather it can help develop the health of your mindfulness in being able to focus in the markets. Being at the optimal operational focus can allow traders to reign in their emotions and trade the system they have planned. Trading is about being the boss of your own business and forcing yourself to be disciplined otherwise you’re going to end up in a string of losses.
These are just a small part of understanding your emotional control, one of the most effective ways that should be added to the above listed is the development of a profitable strategy. A strategy and system that has been backtested and you have seen worked and yield profitable results over an extended period.
This in itself should build up a trader’s confidence, and emotional control by seeing something that factually yields results.
Strategies for Staying Patient in Real-Time
Staying patient in real-time trading situations requires practical strategies. Traders can implement techniques like deep breathing exercises, visualization, and positive self-talk to keep impulsivity at bay. These strategies help create a mental buffer between emotions and actions.
However, they’re not the be-all and end-all solution to this, but rather a stepping stone. First thing is first, hand off the mouse and observe.
At the start of a trading journey, spend time observing and not acting to understand the markets, the movement, and your plan.
Then set up alerts for your levels, trade only in the areas you should be trading in, and keep a distance from the mouse and the impulsive behavior.
Developing Mental Resilience
Mental resilience is the ability to bounce back from losses and setbacks. It’s a quality that patient traders cultivate over time. Resilience allows traders to learn from their mistakes, adapt to changing market conditions, and stay committed to their trading plans.
Learning from your mistakes means creating a trade journal. A trade journal should include your morning plan and trade expectations followed by your trade results and how well you’ve followed the plan. This is the only way to actually learn from mistakes or things you’ve done well and progress.
Another aspect is replay and backtesting your strategy.
If a trader has confidence in a system and strategy they’ve seen work several times over, down days shouldn’t make or break the trader’s ability or confidence. Rather used as learning lessons to continue their journey.
A lot of traders don’t even have a journey and they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, which brings no progress to their trading.
Concept Journal Entry for Trading:
- Trade plan, before beginning to trade
- Trades are taken & explanations
- Trades NOT taken & explanations
- Summary of the day based on the trade plan, was it followed & used?
- Statistics on the trading session
Creating and Following a Trading Plan
Creating a comprehensive trading plan is a hallmark of patient traders. A trading plan outlines clear objectives, risk management strategies, entry and exit rules, and position sizing guidelines. It serves as a roadmap for every trade.
Here are some actionable steps in creating a trading plan that can help traders with their patience.
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1. Finding the Perfect Setup
In trading, there’s no such thing as the Holy Grail, there’s no such thing as a 100% trade or setup that will work every time. Rather there is probability, some setups based on your plan have a high probability of success, and others nothing at all. It’s the trade that aligns perfectly with your strategy and has a high probability of success. Patient traders understand that finding the perfect setup requires time and diligence.
The setup requires traders to follow a set rulebook for their trades. How are they to analyze the market, the movement, the trade confirmation, etc?
2. Identifying High-Probability Trades
Identifying high-probability trades is a skill that patient traders develop. They use technical analysis, fundamental analysis, and market research to pinpoint opportunities with favorable risk-reward ratios. This approach minimizes the chances of entering losing trades.
Using Patience as a Risk Management Tool
Patience is not just about waiting for the right entry; it’s also a powerful risk management tool. Patient traders set clear stop-loss orders and adhere to them. They calculate risk-reward ratios before entering trades, ensuring that potential losses are outweighed by potential gains.
A trader must understand the following:
- Stop loss setting
- Calculating risk to reward
- Position sizing
Setting stop-loss orders is a key aspect of risk management. It’s the predetermined point at which a trader will exit a losing trade to limit losses. Patience comes into play when traders stick to their stop-loss levels, even when emotions tempt them to override them.
Calculating risk-reward ratios is a fundamental skill for patient traders. It involves assessing the potential risk of a trade (how much you could lose) compared to the potential reward (how much you could gain). Patient traders only enter trades where the potential reward justifies the risk.
Position sizing is the art of determining how much capital to allocate to a specific trade. Patient traders use position sizing to manage risk and ensure that no single trade can wipe out their accounts. It’s a strategic approach that requires discipline and patience.
Overtrading is the nemesis of patience. It occurs when traders excessively trade, often out of boredom or the desire to recover losses quickly. Overtrading leads to high transaction costs, increased risk, and emotional burnout.
Preventing Overtrading Through Discipline
Preventing overtrading requires discipline and adherence to a trading plan. Patient traders set clear rules for entering and exiting trades and follow them rigorously. They also recognize the signs of overtrading and take steps to avoid it.
Continuous self-assessment is a habit that patient traders embrace. They regularly review their trading performance, identify areas for improvement, and adjust their strategies accordingly. This ongoing self-assessment helps them maintain discipline and adapt to changing market conditions.
Navigating Choppy Waters
Navigating volatile and unpredictable markets requires a steady hand and a patient mindset. Patient traders understand that markets go through cycles of turbulence, and they don’t let short-term fluctuations derail their long-term strategies.
Avoiding Emotional Reactions to Market Fluctuations
Avoiding emotional reactions to market fluctuations is easier said than done. Patience plays a crucial role in this regard. Patient traders resist the urge to panic or make impulsive decisions when markets are in turmoil.
The Path to Consistency: Embracing Patience
In conclusion, patience is not a passive trait in trading; it’s an active strategy for success. Embracing patience allows traders to overcome impulsivity, make rational decisions, and ultimately achieve consistency in their trading results.
Success in trading is not solely determined by market knowledge or technical skills; it’s also about discipline and timing. By cultivating patience, traders can harness the power of discipline and make well-timed, profitable trades.
The journey of cultivating a patient trading mindset is ongoing. It’s a continuous process of self-improvement, self-awareness, and adaptation. As traders embrace patience and its rewards, they embark on a path toward long-term success in the challenging world of trading.